GAO: Lack of 'meaningful' quality measures hurting providers

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Reporting current quality measures can place a burden on providers, the GAO says
Reporting current quality measures can place a burden on providers, the GAO says

A “misalignment” of healthcare quality measures may place a burden on providers and jeopardize the success of value-based payment methods, according to a new federal report.

This misalignment — found in quality measures used in skilled nursing facilities, hospitals and physician offices — is primarily driven by variation in data collection and reporting systems, decision making gaps between public and private payers, and few meaningful measures, the Government Accountability Office said in its Thursday report.

While quality measures can be used successfully to encourage improvement in healthcare quality, those discrepancies can cause burdens for the providers they're meant to benefit.

“According to a few of the experts we interviewed, quality measurement efforts require providers to expend staff time and incur administrative costs,” the report reads. “Experts indicated that measure misalignment adds to this burden, with a few experts indicating that misalignment may be particularly burdensome among small provider practices.”

The misalignment in quality measures may also pose a risk to the success of the Department of Health and Human Services' efforts to shift provider payments to value-based models, the GAO noted.

The report acknowledges HHS' efforts to reduce misalignment between the measures, including tackling the factors that drive the misalignment, and creating and tailoring measures to be used by both HHS and external groups such as private health plans. Despite those efforts, the report suggests that HHS “set its priorities” on developing electronic quality measures, and better plan out its efforts to develop measures that providers and payers agree will lead to more “meaningful improvements in quality.”

HHS officials concurred with the watchdog's recommendations, and said the agency plans to work with public and private partners to improve the measures.